Getting Back in the Groove

Chartchums is back after a bit of a rest, and we are excited to once again be sharing classroom stories, charts, and ideas with you. Now, if you are like us (quick check: Have you already started lingering over school supplies at Target? Then, yes, you are like us.), you probably never stopped thinking about teaching and are already imagining the myriad of possibilities for the upcoming year.

This year will be a slightly different one for Chartchums. Our book comes out September 1 (click on the picture to purchase it), and we are already thinking about the next one. Kristi is heading back into the classroom to be a kindergarten teacher and Marjorie will continue to work in schools across the country and world as a seasoned staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. As we both prepare for the year ahead, we find ourselves talking constantly about plans and systems and routines for the upcoming year to keep ourselves (and the teachers and students we work with) successful.

Routine is an essential component to any teacher’s classroom. Think about your own life and the routines that sustain and comfort you on a daily basis. For us, it is turning the coffee pot on BEFORE stepping into the shower so it is ready to greet us once we emerge. It is laying clothes out the night before to avoid the “I have nothing to wear” conundrum in the early morning hours, and finally it is finishing up emails before dinner, so we can truly be present with our partners and families for the rest of the evening.

Principles of Management and Routines

The same is true for the students in your classroom. Routine is calming, comforting, and sustaining, especially for students who may have less consistent routines at home. Our brilliant colleague at TCRWP, Shanna Schwartz, has some words of wisdom when it comes to teaching management and routines to students. Shanna speaks of five principles of management:

  • Be consistent: Once children learn a routine it becomes automatic and takes none of their mental power to execute it. Each time you change a routine, it requires learning and brain power from students. Choose one way to do things and stick with it, so children can attend to the important parts of your teaching.
  • Have reasonable expectations: Seventeen-step routines might be a bit complicated for first grade. Create routines with 3-5 steps and children will be more successful in learning (and remembering) them.
  • Teach the routine, don’t just tell it: Give children the opportunity to practice the routine again and again until it becomes automatic. As with all things, the learning is in the doing.
  • Practice what you preach: If one routine involves walking quietly from one space to another, keep your own voice quiet as well. Students are learning far more about the rules of the classroom from what you do, than what you say.
  • Put yourself out of a job, foster independence: Sometimes it feels like it will be faster and easier to do things yourself: hand out the paper, collect the markers, pass out the books, but part of what every teacher is teaching is how to be a citizen in the world. Children learn responsibility and active problem solving when they are given responsibility and chances to solve problems independently. This can be supported with the work you capture on charts.

Sample Routine Charts

A chart on the Smart Board to support routines and behaviors during independent reading time

A chart that captures for children the routine of goal setting in readers workshop

A chart that captures for children the routine for meeting with partners in reading

A chart capturing the set up routine for writers workshop

Charting Routines

Routine charts are likely the most common chart teachers make in the first few weeks of school. There are a few basic principles that will help you tackle these charts in ways that will support student learning and develop independence.

1. Make them with the students.

2. Use student photographs to make them stick.

3. Write them in steps, like a how-to.

4. Reread them daily as a part of shared reading.

With all things charted, once the majority of students know the routine – retire the chart. You will certainly need that space for charting the next bits of your powerful teaching.

Other “Starting the Year Strong” Supports

Want more beginning of the year charts and ideas? Then check out these posts from earlier in our history:


Classroom Set Up

Starting the year off in Reading

Setting the Stage

Last, but Not Least

Chartchums is available to do work in your school to support you and your colleagues in creating powerful charts, independent students, and memorable teaching. Contact us directly at: or through the Heinemann website.

As always, happy charting!

Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli


5 Comments on “Getting Back in the Groove”

  1. mary says:

    Thanks for this post. Congratulations on the book. So glad you are back!

  2. Anne says:

    Yay. Thanks for sharing all of your amazing work. I ordered your book yesterday and can’t wait for its arrival.

  3. […] In Ways to get back in the Groove, Chartchums expand on the following advice: […]

  4. I am ordering 6 copies of your book for my school!!! So excited to put it into action. Thank you!

  5. […] Getting Back in the Groove (management & routines) […]

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